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I think what is unique about me is my ability to be very uplifting to my clients. I am extremely positive to work with, and there is never a dull moment when shooting with my models. I'm always happy, laughing, excited, and I try my hardest to make the model feel comfortable with the person they're working with! It's always fun to capture candid photos of them when they're smiling, knowing that I am the reason why they can have fun and laugh a little!
Damien, what are your passion and aspiration in life? How did you start as a Photographer?
One of my passions and aspirations in life is to be a motivational speaker in my neighbourhood. Growing up in the Bronx, I have met many people who regret not doing what they set out to do. Many in the Bronx have been subject to poverty. As it stands, we are the poorest congressional district in the nation -- it's sad to see that there are so many young people who aspire to be creatives not have a platform. I want to be able to develop a platform where they can hone in on their abilities and be able to be someone in life. Ever since I was young, I've had this dream. I've spoken to many people who have had aspirations of being musicians, painters and even photographers. My father (now 43), for example, regrets never being in a band when he had the opportunity to. I keep telling him that it's never too late, but with our standing as a family, he says it's too hard. I call BS. I don't want to see the lives of many young people who aspire to be artists waste away. It's time we see more young artists emerge out of the Bronx because it is a culturally diverse place here in New York and I feel that not many people pay attention to it. I want to be the ASAP Rocky of photography. If I can do that, I can do anything. Another aspiration of mine is to shoot for a wide range of brands/people/magazines. Some of these include Gucci, Vetements, ASAP Rocky, SuicideboyS, Vogue, GQ. I have such a long way to go, but I know I can do it. I look at a lot of Instagram photographers and see that they've had the opportunity to shoot with A$AP Rocky (whom I look up to if you haven't noticed, haha) and what not, and I'm like, How on EARTH did you get that? I think a lot of it has to do with your following and obvious connections. I have yet to make amazing connections like that, but at the same time, I am so so grateful for the connections I've made thus far. It's a beautiful thing, but at the same time I'm hungry, and I want more. Staying hungry is important! I got my start as a fashion/portrait photographer during my freshman year at Parsons School of Design. 2016 marked the year I got my camera, which was fully funded by donors; I could never afford a $3,000 camera, but I had big dreams, and I was determined. I was given this opportunity by my wonderful AP English teacher Mrs McCormack. Bless her heart. From there, I started shooting whatever I could. I was so fascinated by what this camera could do that I wanted to learn everything I could. Granted, I didnâ€™t need the camera, but it was nice to have. I still use it to this day. Eventually, around August, I started getting into portraiture. I did my first shoot with a friend of mine who goes to NYU, who goes by the name Ewurakua. Intelligent and beautiful lady. At the time I thought it was so dope, so I began to do more of it, and I had lots of fun with it. Thatâ€™s how the portraiture stuff came in. The fashion stuff came in because I was (and still am) heavily into streetwear/haute couture. I wanted to get into high fashion photography, so I pursued it, and although it isnâ€™t that great, I make it my job, it is very dynamic in my look.
Who is your inspiration in life Damien? How do you keep inspired?
One of my greatest inspirations in life is my mother. She knows what I do, and although she can't sometimes understand it, she's always very supportive, and that's what matters in my life, more than anything. If I didn't have her, I'd be nothing right now, and I owe a lot of my success as an emerging photographer to her. It's rewarding to make her proud. Eventually, I want to be as rich as possible to take my mother out the hood. She doesn't belong there. She works too hard, so I want to try to alleviate that by working as hard as I can on my end. She's the person I come to for pretty much anything. She's an angel in her own right. Fun fact: we both have the same birthday. What a blessing it is to have the same birthday as my momma.
We all make mistakes Damien; we wish we could take back. Please tell us about time being a Photographer; you wish you’d handled a situation differently with a colleague.
I met this girl one day while I was doing work at The New School, and she was doing a fashion project for her midterm, and we just randomly spoke about photography and fashion. Eventually, I said that I'd like to help her with her project by shooting her clothing. She was very sweet at the time, but I met another friend through her, in which we struck an immediate connection. Since we both struggle with depression, we instantly bonded and became very close. She told me that the girl I was helping was talking smack about me. Knowing this, I was extremely pissed off, but I couldn't stop now. I embarked on this project, and so I ought to finish it, right? I even shot a VIDEO for her, and she still didn't stop talking smack, I felt used and betrayed. I was with her until 9:00 AM the next morning, still helping her. Never again am I doing something like that. I didn't even believe in it, to begin with, but hey, we all live and learn.
Damien, when you’re working with a large number of clients, it’s tricky to deliver excellent service to them all. As a Photographer, how do you go about prioritising your clients’ needs?
I go about prioritising my client's needs by asking them the look they're trying to go for. Many of them already love the look of some of my photographs, and so I try always to do something different while catering to their aesthetic needs. As I said before, my job as a photographer is to make the model feel comfortable in whatever he/she is doing. I don't want them to feel scared or uncomfortable because it will eventually show up in the photograph. So before we shoot, we would go out for coffee or food and talk about the look. Sometimes I like to take it upon myself and buy them food (many of them ask for Chipotle, haha). A great bonding experience is food, always remember that. Over time, we get to know each other and talk about the look we want to go for, and we discuss how we can do something that is dynamic. It is and always should be an agreement between one another. If it isn't, then why are you shooting?
Please tell us, Damien, about a time you had to be very strategic in order to meet all your top priorities as a Photographer?
Recently I had the opportunity to shoot an editorial for 1990 Magazine. I was extremely anxious about setting everything up because it was all on me. I had no idea where we were going to shoot, whom I was going to use as a stylist, MUA, and models. Eventually, I decided to use models that I've previously worked with before, as well as an all-new one that I met from my job. She just walked in, and I asked, Hey, do you model? â€ Her face lit up with excitement. She says, Yes, I do! But, I'm not signed yet.â€ I asked if we could shoot sometime and we exchanged Instagrams. Great little moment. Anyways, since I was working, I didn't know what day to schedule the shoot, but I remembered I called out on a Saturday, so I used that day as a day to shoot. I hit up a stylist/MUA since we worked together. Finally, came the day of the shoot and my stylist couldn't make it because he was working on his midterms. I had to tell everyone to style themselves according to the look I was trying to go for as much as possible. Thank goodness they all nailed it. I couldn't be happier. I figured I would buy all of my models and makeup artist food to compensate them for their time because it was only right. I was extremely anxious during this entire process, but I had to keep my composure through it all, and I think we all killed it. Shoutout to Joyce, Ky, J, Natalie, and Ninoshkka for all making this happen. You all rule.
Damien, please give us an example of a time when you were able to persuade someone to see things your way at work successfully.
I remember there was this one time I was doing a nude shoot, and the model wanted me to use the light that was available, but there was not much light to begin. I had to stress to her that it would look very grainy especially if I have to bump the ISO up. I told her that it's best to use the flash because it'll give her the very aggressive look she wanted while not making it grainy. I took a few shots of her, and when I showed it to her, she was quite amazed at the look of the images. Sometimes you have to persuade them to believe you and how you work in order to make the vision come to life.
Damien, please tell us about your proudest professional accomplishment as a Photographer. There might be many, but there is always this proudest moment that you want to share with everyone. What is it and why?
I think my proudest professional accomplishment as a photographer is the fact that I was able to shoot for a magazine so early on in my career. I'm very hungry for opportunities, and I always want to be on the lookout for any way I can get my work out there, so it's a blessing to be able to do that. I was anxious at first because Dylan Sprouse was on the first issue of the magazine and there was, a nobody (for lack of better term), shooting for their second issue. I had to find a way to make it look as good as possible. I am proud of that shoot because I was not able to lose my shit that day. I overthink a lot of things. I'm so gratefully for that opportunity, my team and I killed it.
Damien, please give us an example of a time you were able to be creative with your work. What was exciting or difficult about it?
A time I was able to get creative with my work was when I was doing a shoot with this nude model. She had a boyfriend at the time whom I didn't know, but I asked if he could join her and he politely accepted. He was African-American, and she was Asian, so I wanted to portray that love knows no boundaries. It is everywhere, no matter who you are, or what you look like. Especially regarding skin color.
What advice would you give to the people who want to be successful as a Photographer?
I could give advice all day, but the single most important thing I tell everyone is to KEEP SHOOTING. You will not get better if you're not constantly shooting. Whether it be landscape, portraiture or street photography, you will always have to keep shooting if you want to evolve. Learn as much as possible, and learn skills that you can apply to what you can do. You'll be gaining lots of experience, and you'll feel more confident in your ability to capture images. It's always important that you do.
Are you looking for collaboration with fashion talents, brands and creatives? If yes, please state below what type of collaboration you are looking for?
Yes! Always! I am always on the hunt for people to collaborate with and do cool projects with. I'm looking to collaborate with clothing brands, magazines, and models to work with. I would love to be able to connect with anyone and everyone that comes my way.
Damien Karan@intuishun on Instagram